Abdominal Massage: Mix Up Your Gut!
Abdominal Massage: Mix Up Your Gut!
Constipated? Let me share a quick story.
I woke up in the middle of the night from a pain in my gut. It was a vague pain; it was in my lower gut and pressed on my bladder.
I lay there ignoring it, playing gently with the sleep that still hovered in front of me.
No go. The pressure got worse.
I turned over, hoping the shift in position would help dissipate the pressure, and got as comfy as I could, accommodating my legs and head with pillows, setting my covers just so…
Nope. I would have to go to the bathroom.
Here’s the thing…
When you’re over 40 and you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, the manner in which you go to and from the bathroom can determine whether or not you’re going to go right back to sleep, or if you’re going to lie there thinking about everything from the color of your urine to the things you should have said during the water cooler debate you had the day before.
If you don’t go delicately, almost ethereally; if you glide to and from the toilet bowl like an angelic swan, if you don’t accommodate the faint glimmer of sleep that still hangs about your eyes like a gossamer valence…
…then the next four hours is like sitting at a slot machine in Atlantic City with a few rolls of quarters. You feed and feed the sleep machine and you get close, you get so close, but nothing…
…until just five minutes before closing time (in other words: five minute before the alarm is set to go off), when suddenly you fall into a deep jackpot of blissful sleep.
But no! Before your plastic cup of sleep brain can overflow with R.E.M., the clock kicks you, dazed, sick, heavy and confused, into the cold, cruel world!
I HATE insomnia!
So, like I said…
…I had to go to the bathroom.
It was masterful. I tip-toed, I did my business, I washed my hands, I tip-toed back, thinking of nothing but the dream from which I awoke, settled in…
And STILL pain in my gut kept me up!
It was the bread I had the day before.
It had to be.
Every month, my daughter and I will take a Sunday drive somewhere, just to enjoy each other’s company, play music, talk, and clear our heads of everyday events.
This past Sunday, we drove through Rockland County to go upstate.
We stopped at Rockland Bakery so I could show her the wonderland of fresh-baked breads they produce. We picked up an olive loaf, a rye loaf, two sourdough brioche rolls, and two everything bagels with cream cheese.
I don’t do this often. I figured, eh, why not?
You’d think I’d learn by now. WHY haven’t I learned by now???
THIS is “Why not!” I’m lying here in the middle of the night with a war going on in my gut between my good-guy bacteria and bad-guy bacteria, the latter of which has just been rearmed with bagel torpedoes and sourdough grenades!
I have to run interference and get the bread-y weaponry to move through my gut before my bad-guy bacteria can grab it and launch a nuclear attack!
Fortunately, I learned an abdominal massage technique long ago that I knew would help move things along.
Abdominal massage is ancient. There are different techniques, and if done correctly, help relieve constipation and aids in lymphatic drainage, which is important for proper detoxification.
In some cases, certain techniques even help move a baby into proper position for birthing (Google “Webster Technique,” for starters).
Competent and caring chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists learn and practice this technique on clients and patients who need it.
Primary care physicians, nurses, and internal medicine specialists learn a diagnostic technique that helps them feel the condition of the gut so that they can rule out certain conditions like appendicitis, inflamed gall bladder, endometriosis, and other health issues.
I used a modified Diagnostic Technique on myself to help move things along.
How To Massage Your Abdomen:
Okay…here’s what I did.
- I turned onto my back and bent my knees.
- I hovered my hands over my belly button. I bent my fingers and leaned both left and right fingers against the other, back to back.
- Next, I descended my finger-unit into the flesh just below my belly button. I pressed in until I was pressing into my gut at that point (I didn’t press until it hurt – just enough so I knew I was in there).
- Then, I rotated my fingers as one, in one spot, clockwise, mixing up whatever material was in my intestines with my fingers to get it to move along.
- For the second turn, I lifted my hands, keeping them in that finger-unit, a little to the right – about an inch or two. I lowered them into my flesh there and mixed my gut up there.
- I repeated this exercise in a spiral fashion, around my belly button. I moved two or three inches Northward (they call that superior, in anatomy class) toward the direction of my head, dipped into the gut there, and mixed.
- Then, I lifted again, moved to the left, just above my belly button, dipped in and mixed.
- I lifted to the left, mixed again, moved my fingers Southward (or inferior, per anatomy lingo) an inch or two to the left of my belly button, and mixed.
- I kept doing this, spiraling outward from the center, mixing as I went, until I was mixing up my large intestine along my pelvic bones, by each side, and below my ribs. I finished up when I couldn’t get past my left pelvic bones, just inferior to my belly button.
I noticed that when I got to the problem area, I was much more tender when I stuck my fingers in. I just went more gently, but I did get in there, and I mixed things up.
I repeated the whole thing twice, and got comfy. I would either be up in 20 minutes for another bathroom trip, or I would fall asleep and take care of bathroom business in the morning.
I got lucky. The pain subsided in about 15-20 minutes and I dropped off to sleep. I got to take care of business in the morning.
Don’t be afraid to touch your gut.
When I talk to my patients about touching their gut to help move undigested food through, sometimes they’re hesitant to get in there and touch their own bodies. They are worried that they’ll hurt themselves.
It’s your body. Nature made you very resilient. Nature gave us hands for a reason: they fix things.
I teach my patients to rub their guts like this when I know they’re constipated and/or they feel like there’s a balloon in their gut from whatever American delicacy they ingested the day before. It helps. They often report that they go to the bathroom just hours after the massage.
Here’s When You Should Be Concerned:
There’s only one time you should be concerned: That’s when, if you press in and move things around, your gut hurts worse when you REMOVE your fingers. Doctors call this, “rebound tenderness,” and could be something for which you want to call the doctor and get your gut checked out.
Otherwise, it’s okay! Mix Up Your Gut
It’s okay! It’s good to stimulate your gut organs like this. It’s better than letting them get stuffed with half-digested material that they have trouble moving themselves. That’s when inflammation sets in, and that’s when trouble can turn into real trouble.
Gut massage helps move things along, which, in turn, can help you sleep.